Graspop first major Belgian summer festival to cancel 2021 edition
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Graspop first major Belgian summer festival to cancel 2021 edition

Credit: Belga

The metal festival Graspop is the first of Belgium’s major festivals to announce the cancellation of its edition this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, it announced on Friday.

The festival would have celebrated its 25th edition this year from 17 to 20 June, but the organisation has postponed it for the second year in a row, making Graspop the first major festival in Belgium to do so in 2021.

“We would have liked nothing better than to welcome metal fans from all over the world to Dessel in June, but unfortunately that will not be possible,” the organisation said. “The safety of visitors, crew and artists is always our biggest concern.”

This was a decision that brought a lot of heartache with it, Peter van Geel, organiser of Graspop, told Studio Brussels, “not only in my heart, but also in the hearts of our hundreds of employees and thousands of fans,” he added.

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However, as it is celebrating its 25th edition, the festival said it will organise an anniversary worthy edition in 2022, extending it by four days, which will “beat organising a bland one this year,” it announced.

This year’s lineup was supposed to include bands such as Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Foreigner, Judas Priest and Killing Joke, many of which the festival will try to transfer to next year.

Graspop has already guaranteed that all tickets already purchased will remain valid until 2022, and all ticket holders will be notified by Ticketmaster shortly.

“If people have a valid reason for not coming to the festival, then, of course, we will look into that to refund those tickets,” the organisation said.

Summer of uncertainties

In the wake of the upcoming summer, there are still many uncertainties with regards to what will be permitted under coronavirus fighting measures in Belgium, leaving organisations of large events, including festivals, in peril.

Under current circumstances and taking into account the delay in the vaccination rollout, it seems unlikely that a large enough proportion of the population will be vaccinated by mid-June to allow for mass gatherings.

Organisers are looking for more clarity on how the summer could look, especially regarding how many visitors would be allowed.

“By now, organisers should be placing their orders for stages and light and sound equipment in the coming weeks, and making final arrangements for artists and hiring personnel,” said Katrien Vermeire, spokesperson for the interest group Sound of Silence, adding that this is “difficult when you are not yet sure what will be allowed in the summer.”

Other major festivals, including July festivals Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter, will wait until mid-March before making a decision, when the government is expected to give more clarity. Pukkelpop has slightly more time to organise itself, as it takes place in August.

Internationally, other events, including Best Kept Secret in the Netherlands and Glastonbury in the UK, have also announced they are postponing until next year.

Meanwhile, France has said it will allow open-air festivals to take place in a limited capacity this summer, under the conditions that no more than 5,000 people attend, and everyone remains seated.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times